U.S. law allows low H-1B wages; just look at Apple

“If you work at Apple’s One Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino as a computer programmer on an H-1B visa, you can can be paid as little as $52,229. That’s peanuts in Silicon Valley,” Patrick Thibodeau and Sharon Machlis report for Computerworld. “Average wages for a programmer in Santa Clara County are more than $93,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

“However, the U.S. government will approve visa applications for Silicon Valley programmers at $52,229 — and, in fact, did so for hundreds of potential visa holders at Apple alone,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “To be clear, this doesn’t mean there are hundreds of programmers at Apple working for that paltry sum. Apple submitted a form to the U.S. saying it was planning on hiring 150 computer programmers beginning June 14 at this wage. But it’s not doing that.”

“Instead, this is a paperwork exercise by immigration attorneys to give an employer — in this case, Apple — maximum latitude with the H-1B laws,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “Apple may not be paying low wages to H-1B workers, but it can pay low wages to visa workers if it wanted. This fact is at the heart of the H-1B battle.”

“The $52,229 computer programmer wage in Silicon Valley — as ridiculous as it may seem in an area where rents are well above $2,000/month — is allowed by law. This is something that President Donald Trump’s administration, and some in Congress, want to change. The administration wants to get rid of the H-1B lottery system and use wages and education instead as arbiters in the visa distribution,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “Paying low wages is ‘violating the principle of the program, which is supposed to be a means for bringing in skilled labor,’ said a senior White House official at a recent background briefing.”

“Trump’s approach is not outside the mainstream,” Thibodeau and Machlis report. “The broad outlines of Trump’s plan — which call to move away from an random visa lottery and to raise wages — are ideas that have found support among some Democrats and Republicans.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: President Trump’s Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, signed on April 18, 2017, can be read in full here.

The following editorial was published by The New York Times‘ Editorial Board, June 16, 2016, five months prior to the U.S. Presidential election:

Visa Abuses Harm American Workers

There is no doubt that H-1B visas — temporary work permits for specially talented foreign professionals — are instead being used by American employers to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor. Abbott Laboratories, the health care conglomerate based in Illinois, recently became the latest large American company to use the visas in this way, following the lead of other employers, including Southern California Edison, Northeast Utilities (now Eversource Energy), Disney, Toys “R” Us and New York Life.

The visas are supposed to be used only to hire college-educated foreigners in “specialty occupations” requiring “highly specialized knowledge,” and only when such hiring will not depress prevailing wages. But in many cases, laid-off American workers have been required to train their lower-paid replacements.

Lawmakers from both parties have denounced the visa abuse, but it is increasingly widespread, mainly because of loopholes in the law. For example, in most instances, companies that hire H-1B workers are not required to recruit Americans before hiring from overseas. Similarly, companies are able to skirt the rules for using H-1B workers by outsourcing the actual hiring of those workers to Tata, Infosys and other temporary staffing firms, mostly based in India.

Criticism of the visa process has been muted, and reform has moved slowly, partly because laid-off American workers — mostly tech employees replaced by Indian guest workers — have not loudly protested. Their reticence does not mean acceptance or even resignation. As explained in The Times on Sunday by Julia Preston, most of the displaced workers had to sign agreements prohibiting them from criticizing their former employers as a condition of receiving severance pay. The gag orders have largely silenced the laid-off employees, while allowing the employers to publicly defend their actions as legal, which is technically accurate, given the loopholes in the law.

The conversation, however, is changing. Fourteen former tech workers at Abbott, including one who forfeited a chunk of severance pay rather than sign a so-called nondisparagement agreement, have filed federal claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying they were discriminated against because of their ages and American citizenship. Tech workers from Disney have filed federal lawsuits accusing the company and two global outsourcing firms of colluding to supplant Americans with H-1B workers. Former employees of Eversource Energy have also begun to challenge their severance-related gag orders by publicly discussing their dismissals and replacement by foreign workers on H-1B and other visas.

Congressional leaders of both parties have questioned the nondisparagement agreements. Bipartisan legislation in the Senate would revise visa laws to allow former employees to protest their layoffs. Beyond that, what Congress really needs to do is close the loopholes that allow H-1B abuses.

The New York Times‘ Editorial Board, June 16, 2016

President Trump to order review of H-1B visa program to encourage hiring Americans – April 18, 2017
Tech industry frets over possible H-1B visa program changes under President Trump – January 28, 2017
President Trump eyes an H-1B visa aimed at ‘best and brightest’ – January 27, 2017
Silicon Valley chiefs frozen out of President Trump’s White House – December 3, 2016
Silicon Valley uncertain after Donald Trump wins U.S. presidency – November 10, 2016
Silicon Valley donated 60 times more to Clinton than to Trump – November 7, 2016
99% of Silicon Valley’s political dollars are going to Hillary Clinton – October 25, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook and the rest of Silicon Valley throw big money at Clinton and pretty much bupkis at Trump – August 23, 2016
Donald Trump’s most unlikely supporter: Silicon Valley billionaire Pete Thiel – July 21, 2016
Tech investor Peter Thiel’s embrace of Donald Trump for U.S. President has Silicon Valley squirming – July 20, 2016
An open letter from Apple co-founder Woz, other techies on Donald Trump’s candidacy for U.S. President – July 14, 2016
Apple refuses to aid 2016 GOP presidential convention over Trump comments – June 18, 2016
Apple and Silicon Valley employees love Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump? Not so much – May 6, 2016
Trump: We’ll get Apple to manufacture ‘their damn computers and things’ in the U.S.A. – January 18, 2016


    1. Not everything that the TRUMPanzee and his staff proposes is garbage. But there is so much garbage coming out of his mouth and his tweets that it can be difficult to isolate the rare lucid moments.

      Keep in mind that a big uproar is being made by Trump and his staff over a provision in the law that permits a low *potential* minimum wage. I have, as of yet, seen no evidence that wages of U.S. citizens are being reduced by underpaid visa workers.

      The solution is simple – revise the law. Make it better. You don’t need all of this hype from the GOP. Just do it. You would think after screaming about it for the past two years that Trump and the GOP might have actually had some legislation ready for Congress?!

      “Day One” my ass!

    1. The article specifically says that Apple is not actually paying anybody less than the prevailing wage for the locality where they are working. They are allowed to pay visa holders $52,229, just as they are allowed to pay U.S. citizens $21,000 (the California minimum wage for a full-time employee working 50 weeks/year). With Bay-area rents running $24,000/year, I doubt they would have many qualified takers at either number. It costs an immigrant exactly the same amount to feed, house, and clothe his family as it does a citizen.

      If you don’t like the low salaries allowed under H-1B, you should be even more upset with the wages that companies can legally pay Americans. It has been awhile since I took arithmetic in school, but I think that $21,000 is lower than $52,229. Actual wages are set by the labor market, not by the statute books. If Americans won’t work for the salary that a potential employer is offering, that’s not a legal problem.

      $52,229 is on Apple’s H-1B forms because the forms require a number at least that large. A programmer good enough to be hired by Apple can make an extremely high salary, by local standards, in his country of origin. Nobody would relocate to Cupertino unless they were paid enough to improve their quality of life (programmers in Chenai are living in nice neighborhoods, not in a slum).

      Yes, the H-1B has been abused by some employers, but there is no evidence that Apple is one of them. This is another case of the “journalistic” adage that any headline with “Apple” in it attracts more viewer eyeballs than the same article without that headline.

      1. Apple may or may not be paying under market wages. The article points out that 80% of H1B workers ARE paid under the market rate.
        However, it is likely that the low peg also allows Apple to pay visa workers less than the workers would otherwise be able to demand: it has a suppressive effect on all wages.

      2. “It costs an immigrant exactly the same amount to feed, house, and clothe his family as it does a citizen”

        Absolute rubbish. They can live 10 to an apartment, bulk buy food, be communal and put up with (and contribute to) atrocious living conditions compared to what a citizen will tolerate. This is exactly what all communist/socialist societies rely on in fact and is the basis for slave labor worldwide usually driven by socialists or democrats/liberals.

        Venezuela meets islamicized EU meets Communist China meets north korea. globalist paradise.

        The leftists assume mass-immigration with excuse of endless source of cheap labor is the answer to keeping themselves in power.

        1. Umm. I lived in Europe for a couple of years. I saw very few people writhing in pain under the yoke of “socialism”. Currently, I’m a physician. I see many foreign physicians fleeing capitalist paradises such as China and India (you know, the places the rich send your jobs to) but I can’t recall ever meeting a physician fleeing oppressive socialism in France, Germany, or Denmark. Hmm. They must be brainwashed, eh?

        2. Browett,

          When we talk about Apple employees, we are talking about university-educated people doing creative high-tech work, not digging ditches or even doing routine help-desk work. Are you under the impression that American colored folks get paid less than white men because they can survive on watermelon and fried chicken?

          To the extent that immigrants are willing to accept lower pay than citizens, it is not because they are anxious to live under the subhuman conditions that chauvinists provide them, but because they are more willing than Americans to accept the capitalist—rather than socialist—model that labor prices are subject to market forces like any other commodity.

          If you charge more than the market will bear, you won’t sell what you have to offer. American labor has priced itself out of critical markets and is looking for government intervention to save it from the consequences of its own folly.

          The only socialists I am hearing in this debate are the nativists who think that the Federal Government should overrule the free market. The real patriots, real conservatives, and real Republicans think that America can compete in the world economy without state intervention.

          The socialists think that the Government ought to intervene to bring back coal mining and assembly-line jobs that are no longer viable in the real world. These doomsayers have no faith in Americans, but only in the power of government to MAGA by bringing back some mythical era that never was.

          The H-1B folks are moving to follow the job market. Too many Americans think Uncle Sam owes them a living without any inconvenience. If Harlan County has high unemployment, move for God’s sake! Don’t sit on your behind waiting for some presidential messiah to drag you out of poverty with no work required on your part. Don’t blame the consequences of your own laziness on easy-target foreigners.

      3. Immigrants have no problem packing themselves into one unit, so, meaningless point.

        What Apple has to pay as minimum is not what they have to pay in a competitive job skills market. That’s why the push by these big Corps immigrants, legal or not.

        It’s ‘fuck Americans’ time by these looney liberal corporate leaders.

        And you might as well kiss the country goodbye if they succeed in impreaching Trump. Pretty clear message that Corporat families have acquiesced power to a Marxist Muslim world as long as their status is protected.

        You thought Orwell’s 1984 worldview was scary – wait until you see the cruelty of a Marxist Muslim regime…and kiss your daughters’ lives away, morons.

        1. Excuse me, but why are you claiming that Apple is not paying competitive wages? If it were not, the qualified workers would go to work for somebody else. These are not unskilled laborers who have no choices. They are not beholden to nefarious human traffickers (as some of the H-1B folks working for Indian contract labor firms probably are).

          Obviously, increasing the supply of qualified workers does apply downward pressure on the market wage, but that is practically the definition of a competitive job market, not the reverse. Historically, it was liberals (notably trade unions), not conservatives, who tried to limit competition for labor by placing non-market limits on who was allowed to work and what they were required to charge for their services.

          Where did the notion that H-1B’s benefit a “Marxist Muslim” worldview come from? To begin with, Islam and Marxism are fundamentally contradictory worldviews. You might as well speak of Atheist Baptists.

          Most of the H-1B applicants are from India. Are you suggesting that they are Muslim Marxists? That would come as a very big surprise to the 86% of Indians (over a billion people) who are not Muslim, the majority of whom are vigorously pursuing capitalist pursuits.

          As for being a moron, neither Apple’s leadership nor I are derogating human beings just because we don’t like their national origin. Ever hear of the Fourteenth Amendment? A Republican President and Republican Congress adopted it, not some “looney liberal leaders.”

          The real irony is that the anti-immigrant movement is being led by somebody whose mother was an immigrant, both of whose paternal grandparents were immigrants, whose family fortune was built on providing housing for immigrants, and who has married two immigrants.

  1. MDN’s right wing, pro trump, political stance on a tech blog notwithstanding, if you ask any business leaders, the H1B helped put America ahead because the school systems are not outputting the talent required thanks to mostly Republican efforts to keep the population stupid. Bonus for businesses is that they get smart people for cheap.

          1. Clearly, your 70-going-on-7 year old Commander in Chief is also an idiot who is unable to control himself. If he does face impeachment, then it will be his own fault – the result of his inability to resist positioning himself as the best in everything, including exceeding his authority.

    1. They should be able to get people if they can’t find the skills here, but they should have to pay prevailing wage. There should not be that “bonus for business” at the expense of the american workers.

      Keep in mind this is the same Apple that, under SJ, colluded with the other tech companies to NOT recruit american workers from each other so that they wouldn’t get into a bidding war for talent.

      1. Yes, this is a government pro-business program to suppress wages … and that makes it Corporate Welfare.

        The way to resolve the whole mess – and to reveal its historical business rationalization as the utter lie that it is – is to very strictly limit the number of Visas (say, to no more than 10,000) and make it an annually recurring “high bidder” system – set up for the individual worker, not the Visa slot – and with certain minimums on the bids to cover Govt expenses.

        So when Corporation XYZ really wants to hire Dr VonBigWig, they’ll have to pay Uncle Sam for one of these very finite Visa slots…and bids will easily be $25K (or much more): this changes the cost of doing business while holding true to what business has _claimed_ the Visa program was about: being able to hire the absolute Top 0.001% best world class talent.

        And in keeping this limited to the very tops in their professional fields, the increased Vias costs will drive out the cheap lowballs that rip off the non-world class domestic talent out of the market in no time. After all, when you’re going to pay a Johnny Ive type several million bucks, paying anther $100K for his work Visa is peanuts.

      2. Again, there is no evidence that Apple, as opposed to the notorious Indian labor contractors who really do abuse H-1B, is not paying the prevailing wage. If it were not, qualified employees would go elsewhere.

    2. This comment by MDN is not “pro-Trump” per se, but anti-globalist, pro-workers comment. And it is even backed by the NYT editorial, even though now they hate the same measures they were pushing for a year ago just because Trump is in power.

      1. “…now they hate the same measures they were pushing for a year ago just because Trump is in power.”

        Wow, that sounds familiar…
        Yep, you are describing eight years of the Republicans under the Obama Administration. If you are going to criticize, then please turn your critical eye on everything, not just those who might oppose your worldview, DErss.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.